Here's the cold, hard truth about New Year's resolutions: They don't work.
While we believe these resolutions will make us better people once the calendar flips from December to January, the truth is that most of them are forgotten after a week or two. (For proof, try to name last year's resolution. Or the year before? Or the year before that?) Miss a day at the gym, or skip a 1,000-word daily quota on that novel you always wanted to write, or order a third drink at the bar when you told yourself that this year, two would be your limit ... and it's all over. Any Grand Designs you had for the upcoming year is firmly in the trash, and you are a failure.
But it doesn't have to be that way.
The problem with any sweeping, grand resolution is the built-in pressure that comes with it. No one chooses for their big New Year's resolution something simple like, "I'm going to have a salad twice a week." Instead, they're huge, life-changing statements like "I'm never going to smoke a cigarette again." No wonder so many of us fail.
The trick, then, is to have workable goals you can actually accomplish. With that in mind, here are five low-impact, low-profile, low-pressure food-based resolutions you can try out for 2014. Hell, if you're so inclined, go right ahead and get a jump start -- give them a whirl starting today.
1. Read your labels.
I've discussed the ongoing fight over what belongs on a food label time and time again, and for good reason: It's the front line of defense between the consumer and the corporation, the latter of which is constantly trying to trick people into eating the cheapest ingredients around in order to provide their shareholders with the largest profit. And yet, people don't read their labels! Which is essentially saying, "Oh, I'm sure the corporate entity has my best interest in mind." Spoiler: They really don't. So, guard yourself by actually reading the labels on your food this year.
2. Give pigs a break.
I've already spent a lot of words in 2013 detailing the fact that we Americans sure do eat a lot of pork, so I'm not going to harp on that here. Other than to say, maybe, this year, after you've had your fifth slice of bacon for the week, give something else a shot.
3. Live on $4 a day.
This number is what the average food stamp recipient has to manage on. So, to give you some sense of how difficult this is, try it out yourself. Maybe not for the whole year, of course. Maybe not even for a whole week. But spend a day here and there, putting yourself in the shoes of SNAP recipients, just to see how difficult that lifestyle really is.
4. Attend a fast food strike.
One of the most intriguing stories of the year has been the advancement of the plight of the fast food worker. And the thing is, this movement's only gaining momentum. Next year will, surely, bring about even bigger and better strikes as workers try to get their $15 an hour. So if you're into the idea that the person making your food should be afforded enough money so as not to be forced to work when they're sick, handling your food in between sneezes, then spend a single day in 2014 writing a sign and going on strike alongside the workers.
5. Try something new.
Seeing as the previous resolutions focused on the dark underside of food culture, it's time for a fun one. So: Try something new to eat! As my interview with author Dana Goodyear alluded to, by living in California, you're living in a place that's currently the central hub of culinary excitement. Take advantage of that! Once a month, pick a new area of the cultural melting pot that is greater Los Angeles, go to a restaurant you've never been to, and try out a new dish. At the very worst, you'll end up knowing that you will never ever order that again. But at the very best, maybe you'll have a new favorite food.
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